Meta-analysis of the response of marine phytoplankton to nutrient addition and seawater warming

Mar Environ Res. 2021 Jun;168:105294. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2021.105294. Epub 2021 Mar 17.


As an indispensable part of the marine ecosystem, phytoplankton are important prey for zooplankton and various marine animals with important commercial value. The influence of seawater warming and eutrophication on phytoplankton communities is well known, but few studies have explained the effects of the interaction between temperature and nutrients on marine phytoplankton. Through meta-analysis and meta-regression, the phytoplankton responses to the effects of nutrient addition and seawater warming were evaluated in this study. Nitrogen (N) addition led to an increase in phytoplankton biomass, while phosphorus (P) had no significant effect on phytoplankton biomass. However, this result may be biased by the uneven distribution of the research area. N limitation is widespread in the areas where these collected studies were conducted, including many parts of North and South Atlantic and West Pacific Oceans. The key limiting nutrient in other areas lacking corresponding experiments, however, remain unclear. The effect of seawater warming was not significant, which indicates the uncertainty about the effect of temperature on phytoplankton. The results of ANOVA show that nutrient addition and seawater warming had similar effects in various marine habitats (coastal regions, estuaries and open seas), while salinity could have caused the difference in the N effects among the three habitats. Furthermore, our results showed that the impact of temperature depends on nutrient conditions, especially N status, which has rarely been considered before. This result demonstrated the importance of evaluating nutrient limitation patterns when studying climate warming. The impact of rising temperatures may need to be reevaluated because N limitation is common.

Keywords: Marine phytoplankton; Meta-analysis; Nutrients; Seawater warming.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomass
  • Ecosystem*
  • Nutrients
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Phytoplankton*
  • Seawater
  • Temperature